Gloucester City 1 King's Lynn 1
19th April 2008
LINNETS fans will have to endure another nervous 90 minutes at Merthyr Tydfil before their championship fate is finally decided.
More than 300 fans – a magnificent show of support – made the trip to Gloucester, where Matt Nolan rescued a late point for The Walks outfit on another dramatic afternoon in the race for the title.
With Team Bath securing a last-gasp 3-2 victory at Bromsgrove and Halesowen sharing the points in a 1-1 draw with Clevedon, Lynn will now battle it out with The Students for the right to lift the championship shield on Saturday.
Lynn's loyal band of fans went through the full set of emotions as news came through that Team Bath were winning at Bromsgrove and a freak goal from Alex Sykes had put Gloucester in front at the New Lawn.
But Nolan's late goal swung the pendulum slightly back in Lynn's favour and Linnets boss Keith Webb said: "I always said that it would go right down to the last game of the season and that has been proved right.
"It's still in our own hands and I'd have settled for that at the start of the season.
"We've gone behind a few times this year but the character came through. Many people have labelled King's Lynn as the bridesmaid in the past by getting so far and bottling it.
"But we didn't bottle it here. We showed grit and determination and when you marry that with the ability we've got it's hard to match.
"I'm proud of the players and now it's up to us to go and finish the job at Merthyr Tydfil on Saturday."
Gloucester boss Tim Harris, who sportingly asked his players to applaud the Lynn fans on the final whistle, believes it will be Lynn who will go on to be crowned champions.
Harris said: "I asked my players to applaud the Lynn fans out of respect, King's Lynn are a great club.
"I personally think they will go on and win the title, which would be right and proper.
"They are a terrific team with fantastic technical ability and they have the fan support to back that up."
The Linnets were fast out of the traps and had their hosts on the back foot for the majority of the first half.
An early free-kick from Michael Frew crashed against the Gloucester bar, while Joe Francis, who teased the Gloucester back line at will in the first period, saw his effort cleared off the line by Gloucester captain Neil Mustoe.
But the main talking point of the first 45 minutes came in the 28th minute when Matt Nolan went down in the box under little pressure from Marc Richards.
While referee Marvyn Amphlett gave a ticking off and a yellow card to the offender, Mustoe took the ball off the penalty spot and scuffed up the turf.
Francis, in turn, missed the subsequent spot-kick, which was brilliantly saved by Kevin Sawyer down to his right.
It was Sawyer's sixth penalty save of the season, but it was Mustoe's antics beforehand which angered Webb.
"It was an absolutely disgraceful thing to do," said a furious Webb.
"He's walked over when the referee has got his back turned, kicked the ball away and scuffed up the penalty spot.
"For a player to do that – well, he shouldn't be in the game. It was unsportsmanlike behaviour and it's the first time I've ever seen anything like that."
With Gloucester still sniffing a play-off spot, the hosts were a different proposition after the interval.
In-form striker Jack Pitcher glanced over the bar and Sykes blazed over from a few yards out in a spell of heavy Gloucester pressure.
The opening goal eventually arrived midway through the half when Pitcher's header took a wicked deflection off a divot and struck Scott Howie's right post.
With Howie totally stranded, Sykes was left with the easiest goal he'll probably ever score by poking the ball into an empty net.
The Linnets, who created very little after the interval, huffed and puffed in search of a crucial equaliser.
It arrived ten minutes from time when substitute John Turner's weak effort fell into the path of Nolan, who tucked away probably the most important goal of his and Lynn's season.
Both sides went for the jugular late on in a cracking advert for the BGB League.
Pitcher and Will Morford should have done better for The Tigers, while Lynn's Greg Crane saw his powerful 30-yard free-kick fall into the arms of Sawyer.
At the end, Webb paid tribute to the Lynn fans, saying: "The fans were magnificent today.
"Even when we went behind they rallied the boys again.
"I never thought for one minute that we would win the league here, but for them to travel that distance was superb.
"If we can get something like that again at Merthyr and we work as hard as we did here then we can give the supporters what they want."
: Sawyer, Walsh, Sykes, Mustoe, Reid (Thomas 81), Richards, Rose, Webb (Bevan 87), Pitcher, Morford, Smith. Subs not used: Harris, Sysum, Allard.
Bookings: Richards, Rose, Mustoe.
Goal: Sykes (66).
: Howie, West, Chapman, Bains, Crane, Fisk, Frew, Sedgemore, J. Defty (Turner 74), Nolan, Francis (Melton 87). Subs: Bloomfield, C. Defty, Murray.
Bookings: Defty, Sedgemore.
Goal: Nolan (79).
: M. Amphlett (Kidderminster). Attendance
: 660. MoM
: Ben Sedgemore